Fruit Bats (photo by Annie Beedy)
Gorgeous indie pop music is the quick and dirty on the latest album from Fruit Bats called Gold Past Life. “Fruit Bats makes existential make-out music,” says originator Eric D. Johnson. He goes on, “But you’re also welcome to dive into it deeper if you want. Good pop music should be sublime like that.” Gold Past Life is wonderfully sublime and well worth your listening dollar. It is in the Ear Bliss spotlight this week along with the seventh longplayer by the Northwest U.S.-based psych explorers Moon Duo called Stars Are the Light. Let’s take a look.
Gold Past Life
Fruit Bats is the brainchild of the singer and songwriter Eric D. Johnson. The eight album in all since 2002 under the Fruit Bats moniker, new album Gold Past Life concludes a trio of Fruit Bats releases the that began with the 2014 longplayer EDJ followed by the 2016 release Absolute Loser, all for revered North Carolina-based indie label Merge Records, which the press release for the new album describes as being “written in the wake of friends who left these earthly confines and families that could have been.” Melody is all over Gold Past Life which one publication described as “rustic Bee Gees.” The Bee Gees feel is undeniable on the intro of the title track, yet, Gold Past Life is so much more than that. Johnson, working with producer and engineer Thom Monahan (Neko Case, Peter Bjorn & John, Devendra Banhart), keeps it simple and honest delivering these buoyant little pop nuggets in a falsetto voice so full of air and charm that it can’t help but tickle the senses. Put simply, there’s nothing even close to a bad tune in the bunch as Johnson and a lengthy list of guests (Greta Morgan (Vampire Weekend), the late Neal Casal (Circles Around the Sun), Trevor Beld Jimenez and Tim Ramsey (Parting Lines), Meg Duffy (Hand Habits)) take the listener on a sweet journey. There’s the breeziness of the reflective leadoff track “The Bottom of It” which begins with Johnson singing “Now that you’ve gotten to the autumn of your years / and you feel your best yet” and the fleet “Drawn Away” with its radiant acoustic/electric/synth blend and “Ocean” which is a coming-of-age love song, albeit arriving at that stage in life a bit belatedly. The 11 infectious tracks comprising Gold Past Life have both substance and style resulting in a nostalgic sort of bliss. Try not pressing the repeat button on this baby. Highly recommended. Visit www.mergerecords.com.
Fruit Bats appears at The Sinclair located at 52 Church Street in Cambridge on Wednesday, November 6. Andrew Combs, also with a new record of pop-leaning tunes called Ideal Man, opens.
Stars Are the Light
Sacred Bones Records
Moon Duo is known as a psychedelic rock band which these days hails from Portland, OR. Formed in 2009 in San Francisco, the duo consists of guitarist Ripley Johnson of Wooden Shjips band fame and Sanae Yamada. The recently released longplayer called Stars Are the Light is the seventh album in all for the band, all with Sacred Bones Records. A groove-oriented sort of exploratory affair, the album is more in the rave style of electronica employing synth with wads of repetitive dance beats. It’s a departure of sorts from the guitar-saturated psychedelic leanings of past releases. Says Yamada: “We have changed, the nature of our collaboration has changed, the world has changed, and we wanted the new music to reflect that.” Embracing disco as a lift-off point, the free-flowing Stars Are the Light is an otherworldly sonic adventure completely befitting of a band that calls itself Moon Duo. Visit www.sacredbonesrecords.com.
The closest Moon Duo comes to these parts is the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn (66 North 6th Street) where the group appears on Tuesday, November 12 at 9 pm.
Chan’s Restaurant in Woonsocket (267 Main Street) changes things up some on Friday night from the usual blues and jazz when a collection of the state’s (and the Northeast’s) finest musicians including Dan Moretti, Greg Abate, and special guest the multi-Grammy winning Latin-Jazz bassist Oscar Stagnaro and more gather to pay tribute to the iconic Latin-Jazz recording “Brazilia”. It is a single show at 8 pm. Club mainstay Luther “Guitar Jr” Johnson & Magic Rockers turn up the blues burners on Saturday evening, also at 8 pm.
A standout collection of singer/songwriters assemble at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River (165 Anawan Street) on Friday night when they welcome Mary Gauthier, Gretchen Peters, Jaimee Harris, and Barry Walsh for a songwriter’s in the round type of event starting at 8 pm.
A terrific twin bill of roots rock-leaning music is in store at the Knickerbocker Music Center in Westerly (39 Railroad Avenue) on Friday night with area favorites Mallett Brothers Band headlining and Boston-based These Wild Plains in the opening slot. The latter group has an excellent new album just out called “Thrilled to Be Here” that is well worth seeking out. Better yet, go see them live at The Knick and grab a copy! Music begins at 8 pm.
After taking a year off, the revered Stone Soup Coffeehouse kicks off its fall season on Saturday night at a new locale in Providence, the Music Mansion located at 88 Meeting Street. Two fine Rhode Island-based singer/songwriters are on the bill, Joanne Lurgio and Mike Laureanno, with show time at 7 pm. Over in Portsmouth, the Common Fence Music Series kicks off its Fall season at the newly christened CFP Arts, Wellness & Community Center (formerly known as the Common Fence Point Community Hall) located at 933 Anthony Road with the return of Nashville-based Americana troubadour Woody Pines at 8 pm.
The Blackstone River Theatre in Cumberland (549 Broad Street) at 8 pm on Saturday evening presents an evening of acoustic guitar music, from Celtic to contemporary, with two fingerstyle guitar masters in the award-winning Peter Janson joined by Hiroya Tsukamoto. In addition to the evening performance, Janson and Tsukamoto will also offer a two-hour acoustic guitar workshop for advanced beginner and intermediate guitarists from 4-6 p.m. For reservations or information, call the Blackstone River Theatre at (401) 725-9272.
Country music will be in the air at Courthouse Center for the Arts in West Kingston (3481 Kingstown Road) on Saturday night where singer/songwriter (and Groton, CT native) Steve Daggett will bring his energetic mix of twang and Southern rock & roll to the storied chambers at 8 pm. On Sunday, the CCFTA hosts a fundraiser they are dubbing “Sight & Sound FUNraiser” with James Montgomery, The Troublemakers, Gary Gramolini, Neal Vitullo, Adrienne West, and Fugitives from Justice all performing. It begins at 5 pm.
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3.)